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Allen Overland: My Boss. My Colleague. My Friend.

Allen OverlandBy Tim Myers

In October 2013 I said good bye and good luck to Allen Overland, my boss for over 13 years. Allen was leaving his position as the Director of the Democracy Resource Center (DRC) at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington, DC to take on new challenges as the Supervisory Librarian for the Research Library and Archives of the Export-Import Bank.

Allen began his career at NED in 1994, when he joined the staff of NED’s newly established International Forum for Democratic Studies to create a library which would support the work of Endowment staff and its grantees. The collection he developed would grow to over 18,000 titles, and the DRC’s audience would expand to include not only NED staff and grantees but also the fellows of the Forum’s Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. Allen took great pride in the collection he built and the services his library would provide throughout his years as director, and he found tremendous satisfaction in helping each person who walked through its doors.

However, a successful library needs more than books, journals, and patron services. It needs a leader to create a positive environment, and Allen did just that. His managerial approach allowed those of us who had the pleasure to work for him to succeed. As one of my colleagues put it, “There was no time when Allen would ever say ‘I don’t have time for you,’ or ‘Do as I say because I’ve said it.’ He always had time to discuss, to listen to our opinions.”

Allen was that rare boss who took a genuine interest in the welfare of his staff. Monday mornings would find him at your desk, not to assign tasks for the week, but to inquire how the weekend went and to be sure all was well. Fridays he would leave wishing you a good weekend, but with Allen it was more than an expression. He meant it. He really wanted you to enjoy your time off.

Allen mentored me throughout my career, encouraging me to enter graduate school to obtain that all important Master’s in Library Science. After he left for the Export-Import Bank, he and I would meet every few weeks for lunch at our favorite restaurant. I enjoyed seeing our relationship transition to that as colleagues, especially now that I was in charge of the DRC. His advice and support was instrumental in helping me find my way as a first time manager.

On January 23, 2015 Allen died as a result of complications from Systemic Capillary Leak Syndrome (SCLS), a rare disease he battled for many years. He left behind quite a legacy, not only in regards to the library he created, but also with his character. Some of his professional colleagues in the DC library community have described him as “a community builder,” “a pillar of encouragement,” a man with an “irrepressible smile,” and simply as “a dear man.” Zeinab Mansour’s moving post on Allen described his determination, and he had that in abundance. You can’t battle SCLS without it because this disease rears its ugly head in the form of recurring attacks that appear without warning. Allen’s inner strength drove him to rise above this reality, to recover from these episodes, and to live again.

I’ll never forget Allen’s kindness, his patience, or that laugh of his that accompanied that “irrepressible smile.” And I’ll also remember Allen for the quiet resolve he mustered while facing the disease he was afflicted with. He was a good man and will be greatly missed.

And now, regrettably, I must say farewell. Not to my boss. Not to my colleague. But to my friend. Rest in peace, Allen. You are gone but you will never be forgotten.

Note: A celebration of Allen’s life is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at Foundry United Methodist Church, 1500 16th St., N.W., Washington, D.C.

Read Allen’s obituary here.

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